Turn the classic sub sandwich into a bowl of pure comfort food! Philly Cheesesteak Soup borrows all the favorite flavors of the famous steak sub to create a scrumptious soup that’s winter-hearty and lovely to eat.
As a home cook and soup lover, one of my favorite quirky cooking hobbies is taking a popular dish and soupifying it.
It’s not quite as easy as it sounds, because it’s not simply adding water or stock to make things liquidy and sticking a spoon into it. But rather, extra attention needs to be paid to the flavor balance of the original thing, along with the textures and seasonings.
I mean, knowing that today’s soup is based on the hearty sandwich, the last thing you would want is a watered down mess of meat and vegetables, right?
I promise, this soup is not that.
It’s thick and creamy and loads onto the spoon like a champ, while still holding true to what it means to be a soup.
This is the kind of soup that you want to hover over on a chilly day. Maybe pour into a big mug and curl up on the couch in front of your latest streaming obsession. Hold the bowl in your hands for a few minutes to absorb the warmth, and then dig in.
Don’t forget the crusty baguette! It’s the perfect bread for dipping into the soup and sneaking bready bites of all the Philly Cheesesteak flavors.
What You’ll Need – The Main Ingredients
- Meat: See below for steak recommendations, but you can also use lean ground beef as a substitute for a less costly option.
- Onions: White, yellow, or red will all work here. Although each has its own unique flavor profile, by the time they cook down, the differences will be practically undetectable.
- Bell peppers: Traditionally green peppers are used in Philly Cheesesteaks, but feel free to substitute sweeter red bell peppers for the more astringent green. It’s all good!
- Mushrooms: I definitely prefer the meaty flavors of white button or cremini mushrooms. The white buttons are often a little cheaper; you should be able to find both pre-sliced in the produce department, if prepping mushrooms isn’t your thing. A portabello mushroom cap is fine, too, although I would recommend scraping out most of the dark gills with the tip of a spoon. They’re perfectly edible, but they sometimes unattractively muddy or gray-up the color of soup (if you don’t mind that, then don’t bother scraping).
- Beef broth: For my Philly Cheesesteak Soup, I use three different kinds of beef broth: regular canned beef broth/stock, beef consomme, and some Better Than Bouillon paste (beef or mushroom). Whyyeee three, for heaven’s sake? Lol. It all came down to a taste-test preference. Here are some results:
- All regular beef broth/stock only: The resulting soup was too weak. It still needed additional seasoning at the end of the cook, and salt alone wasn’t quite getting it there.
- All beef consomme: While perfectly usable alone here, beef consomme — concentrated and clarified beef broth — gives a stronger, almost too-beefy result. Also, and this is key here, in my region, prepared consomme is often available from only one soup brand (think, red and white label), and it’s not what I would call restaurant quality. But if you do use all consomme, pay attention to the directions on the can: it’s often in concentrated form and needs to be diluted with water before use. (In this recipe, we’re not diluting the concentrate because it’s acting as a flavor enhancer. If you choose to go with consomme concentrate only, definitely dilute it per instructions.)
- Beef broth plus consomme, no Better Than Bouillon: I have to give props to Better Than Bouillon. In general, if you have a soup that’s just not living up to its zing potential, mixing a heaping teaspoon of BTB into the hot liquids will very likely turn everything around. Here, I use the mushroom paste for an extra mushroomy lift that’s just :chef’s kiss:
- Tomato paste: Cooked tomatoes are full of that wonderful thing we call umami. In fact, that’s the only intent of the tomato paste here: not tomato flavors but rather tomato umami. A side advantage of the paste is that it colors the broth a beautiful tawny brick shade, rather than a muddy brown from all of the beef.
- Cheese: Tasty shredded cheese is a must IMO! Fontina is probably my favorite (although not traditional to the sandwich). A nice aged white cheddar would be yummy, too. And if you’re feeling daring: crumbled blue cheese (blue cheese lovers, you won’t regret it!)
- Croutons: The croutons here aren’t supposed to act as a substitute for the sandwich bread — that’s what the crusty baguette is for! — but I do love the gentle crunch they add to the soup as a topping. If you have the big dice-sized croutons, crush them a little bit by placing them in a plastic storage bag and pounding on them gently with a rolling pin or wooden spoon.
What Kind of Meat to Use and How to Slice It?
Now there’s a controversial question! At least for the sandwich. 😉 While I think most would argue for a paper-thin slicing of roast beef, the soup is much more forgiving.
In fact, I would argue that the soup benefits from a more substantial, chunkier “bite” of meat than one might want from a sandwich.
But let’s back up a second: What beef should you buy for the soup? I heartily recommend either ribeye or flank steak. While ribeye is also the choice for the sandwich, flank steak can be more economical, and it’s still wonderfully tender and tasty.
Either way, choose less marbling over more marbling. While fat does create a richer and more tender cook for the sandwich, the extra fat ends up in a greasy pool on the soup.
For the prep, I prefer a slightly thicker slice of steak for the soup than what would be sensible for the sandwich. Say, 1/4″ thick in short strips, sliced across the grain.
Why? You want the meat to sit easily on the spoon, and the bite to be comfortably chewy and not feel like you’re wrangling lengths of rope in your mouth. Not meaning to paint a picture there, lol, but the soup-eating experience matters!
Of course, this soup calls for loads of melty cheese on top! If you’re feeling extra fancy, you could also create a French-onion-soup-like cap of cheese on top of individual oven-safe bowls and broil briefly until toasty.
This is the kind of steak soup that’s the perfect vehicle for topping with a drizzle of sriracha or spoonful of chili crisp.
For an extra soup/sandwich fusion experience, serve the soup in a bread bowl. If you don’t use a bread bowl, a warm loaf of crusty-tender baguette is a must!
More Take-Out Inspired Soups:
Philly Cheesesteak Soup
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
- 1 pound lean steak , thinly sliced and cut into 1/2″ pieces (or use lean ground beef)
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and/or steak seasoning
- 8 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, sliced thin
- 1 medium onion, sliced thinly into short strips
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced into short julienne strips
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram (or Italian seasoning blend)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 15 ounce can beef broth
- 6 ounces beef consomme, not diluted with water (about 1/2 can)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 heaping teaspoon mushroom or beef Better than Bouillon paste
- 1/3 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
- salad croutons, crushed a bit if large
- shredded cheese, such as provolone, fontina, aged cheddar
- Season the steak strips or ground beef with kosher salt and black pepper, or your favorite ground steak seasoning.
- Heat the oil in a 4-5 quart Dutch oven or soup over medium heat until the surface shimmers.
- Add the beef to the pot.
- Cook, stirring frequently, until mostly browned. Check the pot for fat. If there’s more than a couple of tablespoons’s worth, drain or spoon some of it off.
- Add the mushrooms and saute until they’ve given off most of their liquids.
- Add the onions and green peppers, plus a big pinch of salt, and saute until softened, stirring frequently.
- Scoot everything in the pot off to one side, and let some of the liquids pool in the cleared area.
- Spoon the tomato paste into the liquids, along with the smoked paprika, dried herbs, and a big pinch of salt. Stir the paste until fragrant, and then mix into the rest of the vegetables and meat.
- Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir. It will all become a bit pasty; that’s good. Continuing stirring for 15 seconds or so to cook off the raw flavor of the flour.
- Pour in the broth, consomme, soy/Worcestershire sauce, plus a 1/4 cup of water, stirring well.
- Raise the heat to bring the soup to a gentle bubbling, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Mix in the Better than Bouillon paste, and turn heat to low.
- Pour the dairy in small bowl, and spoon an equal amount of the hot soup liquids into it, stirring or whisking constantly, until smooth. Add to the soup, mixing well.
- Serve with toppings and a side of crusty baguette.